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The Sims 3
is out for PC!

The latest version of the popular game already has me hooked. I’ve loved the sims since they first came out, and have way more expansions and stuff packs for the sims 2 than is healthy. Now that the new version is out, I’m happily exploring all the new content and the graphics/AI updates.

So far, it’s great. The town is newer, bigger and seamless. I love being able to send my sim somewhere and not have to wait through the loading screen. The sim creator has had a complete overhaul. The possibilities seem endless for customizing the sim just the way you want them. Even the alien look is included with this game.

The sim AI seems to be greatly improved. No longer do my sims go into a panic because they can’t decide if they should pee or fix dinner. They seem to interact better with each other now too. The only odd thing I’ve seen so far is when they first arrive home after being out for any period of time. They stand facing a wall for a second or two…as if the AI needs to load household actions. Not a big deal, but odd for sure. I love the new wish system, and the ability to choose which ones to accept and work on at any given time. I like this a lot better than having to constantly worry about fears, and then having wants randomized each morning if they weren’t locked.

The relationship meter displayed for every interaction with other sims is great. It’s so much easier to tell if they are hitting it off, or just irritating each other – long before they start screaming at each other! It shows the progression from first interest to friendship and on to deeper connections too, which is great. You still have the relationship window in the UI that shows where you are with each person you know, but the real time meter is very useful.

And now for my very favorite aspect of the Sims. Houses. Building them, decorating them and forcing my sims to live in them. I’ve always loved the build/buy modes the best. I can honestly say I’ve probably spent at least twice as much time in those modes than actually playing in live mode with the sims themselves. In the sims3 everything has been greatly improved. I’m still not quite used to the new item menus, but the increased inventory is great! I absolutely love the ability to customize colors for everything, and the angled, and even off grid placement ability. Placement was a big irritation for me with sims2, I was forever looking for work arounds and giving my poor sims fits because items weren’t placed the way they wanted them…but it looked better that way! Now I can have both.

Even when I set out to build something simple – I seem to end up with large houses, the most expensive items and a generally “similar” look. Now with the ability to customize colors and patterns, that problem is fixed. Well, the look part anyway, I still can’t seem to build a small house.

There are a couple things I miss from the expansions for sims2. I miss pets. And surprisingly, gardens and seasons. I wasn’t expecting that to be such a big deal, but I’m really hoping those are in the works to be expansions for sims3. Vacations were fun, as was owning a business. But there seems to be an option to buy into a business in sims3 – I’ll need to explore that and figure out how that works. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

The only con I have so far is that you still can’t watch your sim work, and have to either busy yourself with decorating, or just wait for time to pass while they are at work. I personally would like to watch them I think – it shouldn’t be that different from the business expansion where everyone went about their jobs. The challenges and activities too should be visible. Especially things like tours through the museum – I’d like to see the inside of those buildings too!

Overall I’m happy with the latest addition to the Sims family of games from EA. I look forward to many hours of building and playing with this latest addiction. Maybe I’ll use the time my sim is at work to do my laundry or blog…

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Another book in the Virgin River series, Paradise Valley is another success by Robyn Carr. Picking up right where the last book left off, the characters that I have come to know and love in Virgin River now face a drastic life change in one of their nearest and dearest, Ricky.

Ricky has been part of the story from the start of the series, we met him when he was just a young teen, being raised by his grandmother, and watched over by Jack and Preacher. Throughout the series we’ve watched his ups and downs, growing pains, and witnessed his jump into adulthood when he held his stillborn son. Now he’s a young marine, and Jack gets the phone call that all parents (even surrogate ones) have nightmares about.

I find myself caught up in the drama, holding my breath to see what will happen next, and completely in love with the close knit town and the way they rally around their own offering as much help and support as they can, no matter what.

This book also continues that romance between retired general Walt and his movie star lady – and it brings back Dan, the mysterious man who has appeared several times over the series. Cheryl too comes back, though not to stay, at least for now. And we are given a glimpse of who she is becoming.

If you’re reading the series, don’t stop now, get this book and keep reading. If you haven’t started yet, I encourage you to pick up the first book and let yourself become part of this wonderful town.

Link: Paradise Valley (Virgin River, Book 7)

Link: Virgin River (Virgin River, Book 1)

Also try the Grace Valley series, also by Robyn Carr.
Link: Deep in the Valley (Grace Valley Trilogy, Book 1)

I attended my second #gno last night and enjoyed it immensely. Hosted by Mom It Forward, #gno is a “girl’s night out” twitter event where moms all over the bloggverse get together and chat about a pre-selected topic.

Last night’s topic was about reviewing products on your blog, disclosure of payment or freebies associated with the reviews, and how to keep your own voice through the process. I found the topic very interesting. So far I’ve only “reviewed” products that my family uses, and have not contacted or been contacted by the companies associated with those products. I was interested to learn that I could approach those companies myself, if I wanted to, and once started I wouldn’t have to review anything I didn’t actually use or like if I didn’t want to.

I’ve considered the idea of doing these types of reviews before. (eventually anyway, once I’ve been blogging a bit longer) My biggest concern was always keeping to the spirit of my blog. It’s my space, my thoughts and my opinion…not something I would want controlled by anyone else. Last night the same concerns were raised by other bloggers, and the panelists agreed that those were valid concerns to have. They talked about saying no to companies or products, and keeping with the “feel” of your blog, not selling out just to get a freebie.

Companies are starting to realize that bloggers have influence in the consumer market, and the smart ones are reaching out to take advantage of that advertising. This relationship between bloggers and companies is still in the early stages for the most part. Not all companies are interested, and not all know what to do with the bloggers once they have made contact. But I think there is a lot of potential here, even at the current stage of development. Bloggers (especially mom bloggers in my opinion) can make a real difference by promoting what they find to be healthy, economical, useful and otherwise good products.

The topic of negative reviews came up as well. There were a variety of opinions, but for me personally I really connected with those who said that they were honest about products they chose to reviews, but they would contact a company about their product and any problems they found with it rather than writing a nasty or overly negative review. Companies need that feedback, and changes can be made without having to make a big fuss about it. Obviously if there is something out there that is dangerous or that a company isn’t willing to change then others need to know about it, but it’s about approach and tact. At least as far as I’m concerned.

When a negative review is called for…the power that bloggers have is immense. The networks in place between bloggers ensure that word will spread very quickly in all sorts of directions. It’s a power that should be taken seriously, and handled with care.

My boys have just experienced the wonder that is Cheetos…And they are in love.

Before now I never bought them because I don’t like the crunchy ones. As a kid, I loved the supper soft cheese balls. I was so sad when they stopped making them. But this weekend at the store I noticed the Cheetos “puffs” and thought I’d give them a chance.

After the first questioning bite, my boys were sold. They started worrying about who had more, and Alex (2yo) even tried to grab one from Josh, claiming it was his! Josh of course immediately wanted to know if we could “buy lots and lots of these forever?” The highest recommendation in his world.

I didn’t think they were bad either, a nice amount of crunch, they reminded me of the cheese balls I used to love.

Halfway through the first bag, and three sets of orange coated fingers later, I can safely say that cheetos puffs are a big hit here. Now if only I could come up with a way to get Frito Lay to let me “test” their product for more reviews! 🙂

I’ve been reading like crazy this week – must be all the rain.

Little Bitty Lies: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews.
Personal Rating: 4/5 Stars. Fiction
At first glance I thought this book was going to be just another romance novel, but I was wrong. Sure, there’s a hint of romance in it, but the story is about a woman struggling to survive after being abandoned and left penniless by her husband. The characters come to life very quickly, and I found myself shocked and enraged right along with the main character Mary Bliss McGowan as she discovers her husband’s betrayal. I cheered her on as she planned a way out of the nightmare and was on the edge of my seat with anticipation when one little lie spiraled out of control into a wild adventure with unexpected consequences. This book is about best friends, secrets, mothers and daughters and Little Bitty Lies.

Hissy Fit: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews
Personal Rating: 4/5 Fiction
Another book by Mary Kay Andrews, I found Hissy Fit quite entertaining. Set in the South, this book tells the story of a interior decorator named Keeley Murdock who thinks she has her life all figured out, until she opens a door at her wedding rehearsal that is, and finds her life turned upside down. Cue the Hissy Fit! Humiliated and needing work to both stay in business and keep her mind busy, Keeley takes on a client who turns out to be smitten with a woman he’s never even met. And if all that isn’t enough, Keeley’s past stands in the way of her (and her father’s) future and she’s forced to go in search of the truth. This book is well written and fun to read. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in a story full of fun and mystery, romance and Southern charm.

Savannah Breeze: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews
Personal Rating: 4/5 Fiction
Sequel to Savannah Blues, this book is another delightful southern tale following the lives of BeBe Loudermilk, and her best friend Weezie. Fooled by a man and left homeless, BeBe must figure out where he’s gone and how to catch him before he strikes again – all while trying to restore an old beach side inn and generate some income to put a roof back over her head. Plus there’s Harry. Harry is a mystery all by himself and BeBe can’t decide if she wants to strangle him or kiss him. I’d recommend this book as great summer reading, even if you can’t get to the beach! Pull up a beach towel, slather on some sunscreen and hang on for this crazy tale of betrayal, revenge and finding love in unexpected places.

And now for a change of pace, I’ll be trying out Emily Griffin’s Something Borrowed

I have to admit I was not sure about this book when I first picked it up. But I like knitting, and I loved Debbie Macomber’s Shop on Blossom Street series. I was impressed with the writing style. It was easy and unforced, and made me feel as if I could walk into that knitting shop and know everyone there. I wanted to taste Dakota’s cookies, and walk through the rows of colorful wool imagining my next project.

I found the story line believable. A single mom raising a daughter in New York, with the real challenges that come with impending teen-hood, owning a small business, and renewed contact with people from your past. The dynamic between the women was great to “watch.” Each unique and viewing knitting from a different perspective, they became more than businesswoman and customers, they became friends, family.

I was caught off guard by the ending. It was unexpected, yet believable at the same time. It was gut wrenching, terrible and sad. I normally hate sad endings, but I couldn’t give up on this one. I had to see it through. And though it was sad, I’m glad I finished. Even in it’s sad ending, the story was rich and beautiful. I’m now looking forward to the sequel, which takes place 10 years later, and hope to be reunited with some old friends, see the life after tragedy, and meet the young girl turned woman and find out if she’s still baking mouth watering treats and charming all she meets.

I give this book a 4/5 rating and would recommend it anyone  who has faced the challenges of life and was grateful for the support and understanding of the women around her.

Link: Kate Jacobs: The Friday Night Knitting Club – Shelfari

Yes Man

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m a Jim Carrey fan. I don’t love ALL of his movies, but when he makes one like “Yes Man” I’m thrilled. He’s done some weird stuff, but this isn’t it. The plot of “Yes Man” is easy to follow and believable. Carrey plays Carl Allen, a man that is afraid to take risks. He’s been left by the woman he loved, is passed over for promotion and avoids his friends for fear of running into his ex. All of that changes when an old friend shows up and challenges him to just say “yes.”

Carl’s first yes sets off a chain of events that turns his life upside down and introduces him to Allison (played by Zooey Deschanel) a free spirit who charms him with her adventurous lifestyle. How long can he keep saying yes? Longer than you might think!

This movie will make you grin, giggle and even laugh if goofy humor is your thing. Charming and fun, I give this movie 4/5 stars and a great big “would watch again!”

Link: Yes Man, on Amazon

Payback” by Fern Michaels, is the second book in the Sisterhood series.

In this second book, the sisters are together again ready to right another wrong. The story is Julia’s mission to bring her husband, who infected her with AIDS, to justice – sisterhood style. Under Charles’ watchful eye Julia and the rest of the sisters come up with a fitting punishment an enact their justice while trying not to get caught.

As with the first book, I love the idea of this story. I cheer the girls on as they hatch their plans and wish I had my own secret computer command center! I get a bit irritated when the sisters peck at each other, especially when the motivation seems a bit of a stretch. I feel like they should be pulling together just a bit more with a successful mission under their belts, and the very real danger of being discovered threatening them all.

The dialogue and editing were a bit better with the second book, and the characters overall are a bit more believable. I would have liked to see more development in the “how” of the story, rather than just having Charles magically make things work all the time, but I think that’s just the mystery and crime novel lover in me. I gave this book three stars, and would recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of a sisterhood of women banding together to bring justice to those that deserve it.

Link: Fern Michaels: Payback – Shelfari.

Weekend Warriors by Fern Michaels, is the first book in the sisterhood series.

The ongoing theme in this series is a group of women taking justice into their own hands and getting vengeance for crimes left unpunished by the justice system. These ladies take the punishments the rest of us can only dream about for the most evil of criminals, and make them a reality.

In the first book, the women come together after tragedy strikes the family of a high power defense attorney in D.C. The women come from vastly different background, but have one thing in common: They’ve been left to fend for themselves when the legal system wouldn’t or couldn’t bring justice in their case. With a second chance at finding some peace within their reach, the women unite under the watchful eye of Charles, a retired MI6 agent, and become the Sisterhood.

Each woman (plus Charles) brings her own story and talents to the group making the seemingly impossible, possible. Katheryn, a widowed truck driver, gets her revenge in this first story of the sisterhood. With the mission’s success comes a strong bond between all of the women and at the end of the story the ground work is laid for the next mission.

I found myself impressed with the plot and eagerly read as the story unfolded. However, there were two disappointments for me with this book specifically. The first was the editing. There were many places where the editing completely failed, and the wrong word, or incorrect punctuation interrupted the flow of thought. The other problem was the dialog, I don’t know if it’s just me being picky, but I found the dialog to be a bit over the top. It didn’t seem to flow as a real conversation would in many places, and seemed forced some of the time. Overall, I would recommend this book because the plot and character development is good and makes up for the rest.

Link: Fern Michaels: Weekend Warriors – Shelfari.

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